Last updated: June 10. 2014 9:11AM - 1060 Views

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With the primaries for Ashe County Commissioner behind us,the focus now goes to the remaining six candidates in the race.

Because of this, the “Jefferson Post” will be asking the commissioners to respond to several questions between now and the election in November.

Here is the first question given to the candidates to answer:

“County commissioners have say in many different issues within the county. At one moment you may be having to vote on a gun ordinance and the next you’re debating on if the schools or hospital needs additional money. You may be negotiating a new ambulance contract or you could be going over the county’s annual proposed budget.

What for you is the single most important issue facing the county and its commissioners? Why is it the biggest issue? If elected, what will you propose to take on the issue? The people want specifics.”

Below are the answers provided by the candidates for Ashe County Commissioner:

Richard Blackburn:

“A priority issue is economic development. A robust economy that provides jobs will eliminate many of the other problems that the county has to deal with.

Specifically, the main effort that I would make initially would be to call for an Ashe County “economic summit.” It would involve the Ashe County Commissioners, the County Manager, the Economic Developer (a position I consider to be absolutely essential), the Economic Development Commission, and representatives from the three county municipalities. The EDC (Economic Development Commission) is made up of representatives from industry, businesses, education, and health agencies. The Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, regional and state commerce agencies would be consulted.

No one individual has the answer to moving forward with economic development, but these many, brainstorming together, might find answers. At least the effort would place the issue as a dominant priority.

The economy, like a diamond, has many facets and in order for it to sparkle attention must be given to each of them. The components include; sustaining present industry, searching for new industry, promoting tourism, encouraging businesses, diversifying farming, encouraging entrepreneurism, and maintaining quality education to train our workforce for today’s jobs.

A positive climate for economic growth involves bringing together local government and appropriate infrastructure with well-defined goals. Short and long range planning must occur with commissioners becoming more proactive.

Multiple efforts must be undertaken. These should include wide collaboration, networking with the people who have contacts with commerce agencies, incentives, fewer regulations, minimum taxation, no infringement on private rights of businesses, attending to maintaining appropriate infrastructure, and addressing quality of life issues.

Ashe County should do everything possible to broaden the tax base so that taxes may be held to a minimum. Our county could be branded not only as a tourist destination, but also promoted as a location for second homes and for retirement living.”

Cabot Hamilton:

“The most important issue facing the new Board of Commissioners is the development of a well thought out plan for the creation of jobs.

First, Ashe County needs to hire a top-notch Director of Economic Development. The newly-elected board in December should be the board that hires this director after collaboratively deciding what skills criteria they want in a long-term director. The director will need the following: support for professional development; encouragement to interact with the School of Government; regular participation in NCEDA conferences; a personality to easily interact with various audiences; an understanding of rural issues; knowledge of entrepreneurship; understanding of industry and manufacturing and the exporting of product; strong financial background for developing capital/loan programs; knowledge of tourism.

Secondly, the new board must develop a unified effort to establish a sustainable economic growth plan and a business friendly environment including:

· Government, business/industry and education partners in regular communication with each other.

· County and towns are working together for common goals.

· Collaboration with regional entities and recognition of the importance of agriculture and its importance in the economy.

· Partnerships with K-12, community college and the university as significant economic development tools.

· Emphasis on community development and economic development.

· Access to micro-loans, and capital for business and wealth creation.

· Recognition that “public infrastructure” speaks volumes about a community’s leadership.

· An initiative supporting innovative people and ideas to create new products or new services.

· Support active grants research and writing

· Support for leadership development.”

Dan McMillan:

After multiple attempts to contact McMillan, he did not respond.

Brien ‘Bruno’ Richardson:

After multiple attempts to contact Richardson, no response was given.

According to a release published by Richardson, he offers his beliefs on the priority issues which are:

Encouraging industrial growth in Ashe County, Establishing career opportunities and incentives for the county, incorporating fundamentally sound decisions, supporting and acknowledging the services given by Ashe County teachers and law enforcement and maintaining programs which will enable the elderly to live independently in their homes.

Jeff Rose:

“I feel the single most important issue facing the county is trying to get and keep good sustainable jobs that will pay a fair wage to help the people in the county from having to move away from the area to find a job with these benefits. We could do this by some tax incentives and making this county a good location for job creation and education. One of the most important things for the County Commissioners to do is to work closely with the County Manager and Economic developer to see that they are not only keeping in constant contact with not just the bigger corporations but smaller companies as well. Also see that they are maintaining open communication with the companies as well as with the Commissioners on a regular basis so we can all work together as one team on this important issue.”

William Sands:

“At this time the most important issue is completing our 2014/2015 county budget. Operating expenses continue to increase. Also, it is important that we financially assist Ashe Memorial Hospital - hopefully for only a short period. My intention is to continue to provide services to our citizens and to minimize expenditures.”

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